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What Are the Best Headlight Bulbs?

November 26th, 2012

The Best Headlight Bulbs

If you’ve ever driven a car with worn-out headlight bulbs or dirty, yellowed lenses, you know just how scary the road can be without enough light. When it’s time to replace your headlight bulbs, you’ll be faced with choices ranging from just a few dollars to $80 or more. So are the “premium” halogen bulbs really worth the money?

Consumer Reports found that premium halogen bulbs (we recommend the Sylvania SilverStar Ultra at around $40) provided brighter, whiter light and up to 19% greater output compared with new original-equipment bulbs. Testers noticed little difference between one premium bulb and another. However, don’t expect to be able to see much further down the road just by upgrading to premium halogen bulbs. Illumination distance and peripheral visibility are more dependent on your car’s headlamp size, shape and design than the bulb itself.

Driving Tip: Halogen headlight bulbs lose intensity over time. Consider replacing your bulbs around every 24,000 miles, rather than waiting for them to blow out. The difference will be instantly noticeable.

Xenon high-intensity discharge (BMW) and full-LED (Audi, Jaguar) headlights are becoming increasingly common, and provide brighter, clearer light, though the cost of replacement is much higher. For more on the advantages and drawbacks of standard (halogen) headlights versus HID (xenon) and LED headlights, see this guide from Auto Evolution.

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